Pribaikalsky National Park

This park was founded in 1986 in order to preserve Lake Baikal’s western coast and includes the biggest protected area of coastal line, almost one fourth of its entire length. Pribaikalsky is by far the richest of the protected territories of the Baikal region with respect to the abundance of animal and plant life, number of rare flora and fauna species as well as archaeological objects.

In 1996 the park was merged into the “Lake Baikal” natural site – a proud part of UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
The Pribaikalsky Park is situated in the Irkutsk Region in the territory of Slyudansk, Irkutsk and Olkhonsk Districts. It spreads out over a larger part (470 km) of Baikal’s western coast – from the Kultuk village in the south to the Kocherikovskoye village in the north. The park occupies the eastern slopes of the Primorsky Range, the southern part of the Olkhonskoye Tableland, the basin of the Big Rechka river and Olkhon Island. This island is the biggest out of all of Baikal’s 37 islands; it is 85 km long and 15 km wide.

Most of the park’s territory is occupied by the Primorsky Range with altitudes ranging from 450 to 1000 metres. The lowest height at the lake’s level is 456 meters above sea level; the highest point (the water-parting between the Kochericova River and Anay River) is 1704 meters above sea level. The terrain is notable for its diversity along with relatively low fluctuations of absolute altitudes.

In order to get to the park one should come to Irkutsk by train or by air. The route to the park from Irkutsk is accomplished by motor vehicles (buses, fixed-route taxis) that go to Listvyanky, Big Goloustny, Buguldeyka villages, the coast of the Maloye Sea and the Olkhon Island. Small boats run from the Listvyanky village to Peschanaya Cove and Kotov Cove. One can also arrive to the Kultuk village by Circum-Baikal railway going from Irkutsk.

Lakes and Rivers
Тhe park’s territory belongs to the basin of Lake Baikal and the Irkutsk Reservoir. There are about 80 smaller lakes in the park. The park’s northern area is occupied by lakes of different origin (delta, lagoon, flood-plain lakes; most of them are freshwater lakes); the vast number (over 20) karst and other salt steppe lakes are situated in the Tazheransky steppes and other near-Olkhon areas. The only lake in Olkhon Island is Lake Shara-Nur.

The territory of the park is covered by a well-developed river network, except for Olkhon Island and its surroundings. Most of the rivers are mountain-like torrents around 10 km long. But there are a number of rather long rivers: the Goloustnaya (122 km), the Anga (90 km), the Buguldeyka (80 km), the Sarma (56 km) and the Big Polovinnaya River (25 km). A total of 150 permanent stream flows run through the park’s territory, 60 of which flow directly into the Baikal.

Plant Life
Baikal’s coast is almost entirely occupied by the taiga-steppe altitudinal climatic belt which includes various kinds of steppes and light coniferous forests. Most of the western Baikal endemic species are present in the park. It’s the habitat of a majority of all-Baikal endemics as well as species of limited areal including relict plants. There are about 200 such species growing in the park.

Most of the area at the ranges’ slopes and tablelands is covered by vegetation of light coniferous taiga forests. The higher slopes of the Primorsky Rane and the Olkhon tableland are occupied by the dark coniferous vegetation: cedar and fir-tree forests, pine and larch woods.
The park’s higher plants include approximately 1400 species. 20 of them are endemics that grow strictly within the park’s territory (Olkhon astragalus, Zunduk sulla, Popov’s oxytrope etc.).

Animal Life
25 fish species populate the lakes and rivers of the park including rare species such as the Baikal sturgeon, the Baikal cisco and the Baikal oilfish (40% of its organism consists of fat). This little-studied fish can survive in the depths and withstand significant pressure. The most valuable river fish are taimen, lenok and black grayling.

Amphibian fauna consists of 4 species. The Siberian toad lives only in the park near the Irkutsk region (the Olkhon island and nearby area, the mouth of the Goloustnaya river). There are 5 reptile species in the Pribaykalsky Park. The park’s mammals list includes more than 60 species. The rarest one is the Baikal seal – the only seal in the world that lives in freshwater.

There are over 300 bird species, 170 of which are nesting ones. The park’s emblem can be considered the eagle given the fact that there are 7 eagle species inhabiting the park. The birds of special value include the imperial eagle, the saker falcon, the demoiselle crane and the Daurian partridge. These species nest only within the park’s area.

Natural Attractions
There are many magnificent cliffs and rocks, picturesque bays and coves in the park. The rocky capes of the Maloye Sea (the strait separating Olkhon Island from the coast) are of particular beauty. The most famous capes include Burkhan Cape and Khoboy cave (Olkhon) as well as Zunduk Cape – regarded as sacred places for the Baikal Buryats. The Kobylya Cape, situated south of the Olkhon Island, resembles the head and back of a swimming horse.

Popular tourist destinations are mainly the bays and coves of the southern coast of the Maloye Sea. The steppe landscapes of Olkhon Island are also very beautiful and unique. Their low rocky ranges and vast depressions are full of the mystic charm of Central Asia’s ancient nature.

The Tazheransky steppe massif is notable for its series of lakes (more than 20) with salt or bitter-salt water, for the capes of Ulan-Nur and Orso with their unique minerals and for its caves. The biggest cave is called Aya (the cave length is 540 meters). The Mechta (Dream) cave (250 meters) is one of the most beautiful Baikal caves. It is of karst-tectonic origin and is distinguished by its marvellous “interior” made up of ice build-ups.

The mountain path leads the way to the northernmost point of the Olkhon Island – the Khoboy Cape from where the grandiose panorama of Baikal’s western and eastern shores opens up. The cape got its name (Khoboy means tusk in Buryatian) thanks to its spectacular look – the vertical plate of white limestone. One other cape is not less famous. The Sagan-Khushun cape’s second name “Three brothers” was given due to three rocky pillars towering at the top of the cape. When you enter the Sarminskoye Gorge you can see a rock that resembles a figure of a woman. The rock’s name is Goddess.

There is a lake named Sukhoe situated at the Seminikha depression (to the south of B. Goloustnoye village) which appears and disappears over the time. In the area of the Kadilny cape there is a karst Chasovnya cave – the place where the ancient man lived once. The interesting feature of the cave is the sunny illumination thanks to a hole in the top of the cave’s high dome.

The ornithological areas of international importance (“The Olkhon island”, “The south-Baikal migratory corridor” and “The Angara’s source and upper course”) are of particular value. Mostrare bird species nest at these zones. The south-western Baikal coast is used as a “path” for the autumn migration of birds of prey (up to 2 000 species a day fly over the area).

History and culture
There are more archaeological monuments in the Pribaikalsky Park than in any other Baikal regions. In total, there are about 1000 such objects. In the Olkhon alone there are more than 140 archaeological objects such as ancient settlements, ruins of stone walls and stony “dome-shaped” graves.

For thousands of years the monuments of archaeology and ethnography carved themselves into the picturesque landscapes of Olkhon Island and continental area, becoming an integral part thereof. It is impossible to imagine this region without the numerous dome-shaped structures of the late Iron Age that occupy vast areas on the slopes of the hills, without stone structures (“the obos”), wooden poles (“the serges”) and stone walls (“the shibites”) placed on the mountain-tops. trans siberian railway